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Grafton jail protest heads into sixth day

Wed July 11, 2012 3:13am

Grafton residents have spent another night outside the town's jail, amid concerns that more police have been sent to quell the protest.

ON Tuesday night people were pitching tents, blowing up mattresses and transforming ute trays into beds in protest against a NSW government plan to downgrade the town's jail.

As the town's protest headed into its sixth day on Wednesday, Public Service Association (PSA) of NSW spokesman Shane O'Brien said larger numbers were flocking to the site.

"It has completely blown us away how much support we are getting from ordinary people," he told AAP.

But Mr O'Brien said they were concerned that more police were being sent to Grafton to help control the numbers.

"We believe police and the riot squad are on their way," he said.

"Local police just don't have the resources for something like this.

"(But) I hope the background to deploying them is not something more sinister."

A spokeswoman for NSW Police said they were not in a position to comment on police operations but that protesters were being told to comply with officers directions.

Between 300 and 500 locals have been picketing outside the prison in northern NSW since Friday over plans to downgrade the prison from a 250-bed jail to a transient facility that would house just 60 prisoners.

The PSA has been undertaking statewide industrial action since Sunday evening, including banning visitors from all NSW jails and stopping workplace flexibility, which should lead to an increase in overtime.

Mr O'Brien said there were no plans to end the protest and that union officials had "mapped out" an industrial strategy on Tuesday to deal with the government's plans.

The NSW government has said it will surge ahead with plans to close the jail, saying the facility has reached its use-by date and maintenance alone costs NSW taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

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